Djokovic’s detention and the deportation order followed outrage over the decision to grant him an exemption to enter a nation with some of the strictest rules anywhere when it comes to combating Covid-19, one in which an unprecedented regime of lockdowns has been inflicted on its citizens.
There was mounting speculation that the basis for Djokovic’s exemption was a rule designed to apply to those to have recovered from Covid-19 in the previous six months rather than one covering those with underlying health issues.
Tennis legend Rod Laver told the Herald Sun it would be in Djokovic’s “best interests to own up” about the criteria used in his case, adding: “If he’s got a reason for [the exemption] then … we should know it.”
Laver also warned Djokovic he could face hostility. “I think it might get ugly,” Laver said. “I would think the Victorian people would be thinking, ‘Yes, I would love to see him play and compete but there’s a right way and a wrong way’.”
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley also called on the Serbian to explain why he has been allowed to compete. “I think it’ll certainly be helpful if Novak was to explain the condition for which he sought an exemption and he got the exemption,” he said. “But ultimately, it’s up to him.”
Another former Australian player, Sam Groth, accused Djokovic of “laughing in the face of Victorians”, branding it a “brazen move” for the 20-time grand slam winner to announce his exemption on social media without offering a more detailed explanation.
Meanwhile, the Australian papers reacted with fury: